'Knocked Up' Knocks Some Wind Out Of 'Pirates' Sails At The Box Office

R-rated comedy fares well in wake of deflating blockbusters, but 'At World's End' still takes #1.

The Top Five

#1 "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End" ($43.2 million)

#2 "Knocked Up" ($29.3 million)

#3 "Shrek the Third" ($26.7 million)

#4 "Mr. Brooks" ($10 million)

#5 "Spider-Man 3" ($7.5 million)

I'm beginning to think that we here at the box-office report are no better than rats.

When I was in college, I studied with a psychology professor whose research with rats centered on "incentive relativity," which is basically a $5 phrase for a $1 concept: that nothing is judged on its intrinsic value but on how it compares to our memories of past experiences. So you might eat less at dinner knowing you had a big dessert coming or judge your current girlfriend against the behavior of your last.

And with that in mind, it's finally time to say what we've been holding in for weeks: "Spider-Man 3," "Shrek the Third" and "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End" have all been domestic failures.

It's tough to say something negative about three films that have each opened well over $100 million and are all likely to pass $300 million domestically. It's just that compared to the second films in each of these series, the third films have to be viewed as something of a disappointment.

"Pirates" is the latest big-budget blockbuster to fall precipitously during its second weekend, down 62.4 percent to end up with $43.2 million. At $216.5 million, "At World's End" is well behind the haul for "Dead Man's Chest," which had earned $258.4 million at the same point. It's a foregone conclusion, then, that it won't come anywhere near matching that film's final gross.

Nor will the others. "Shrek the Third" and "Spider-Man 3" both fell nearly 50 percent in their third and fifth weekends, respectively. "Shrek the Third" lined its ogre-size coffer with $26.7 million, bringing its total to $254.6 million, while "Spider-Man 3" ensnared another $7.5 million.

One film that resists comparison is Judd Apatow's latest, "Knocked Up," starring Seth Rogen as a twentysomething schlub who learns he's about to be a father. Shrewdly marketed as an adult respite amid CGI craziness, the hysterical comedy earned a solid $29.3 million in its weekend debut.

The other film in wide release, "Mr. Brooks," opened in fourth place, with $10 million.

How'd We Do?

Eli Roth pegged "Knocked Up" as the weekend's big surprise, and his guess of $31 million was darn accurate (see " 'Knocked Up' Might Knock Out 'Pirates,' In Projection Booth"). Unfortunately, he forgot to account for Jack Sparrow. Meanwhile, with another win this week (his prediction of $46 million was right on the nose for "Pirates"), MTV Movies editor Josh Horowitz has put some real distance between himself and our other competitors, with a seven-week lead. Only the Red Sox look like more of a sure thing at this point. (Go Boston!)

Prognosticator (Weeks Won)

Josh Horowitz, MTV Movies editor (16)

Larry Carroll, MTV News writer (9)

Celebrity guest (6)

Next Week

Bring the whole family to the multiplex next weekend and split up — a veritable cinematic smorgasbord awaits filmgoers with the release of three films that couldn't possibly be more differently targeted. There's "Ocean's Thirteen," the horror flick "Hostel: Part II" and the animated penguin movie "Surf's Up," featuring the voices of Shia LaBeouf and Jeff Bridges. Just don't let the little kids into the wrong theater.

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